Motorcycle tour through Algeria

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Motorcycle tour through Algeria

Motorcycle tour through Algeria
The dunes of the Sahara

Algeria. The grave road, the sand dunes from Erg Tifernine, the Hoggar Mountains. A dream for Sahara fans. Or a nightmare when the technology goes on strike in the middle of nowhere.

Michael Kutschke


I waited ten years for this moment, longed for the Algerian Sahara again. Until recently, civil war has made traveling to this country nearly impossible. And now I am already in the oasis of Bordj Omar Driss and it is only here that I gradually understand that I have actually reached the “Garden of Allah”, the Arabic name for this desert. In front of me are the Erg Tifernine, the Djanet and Tamanrasset oases and the 3,000 meter high peaks of the Hoggar Mountains. And the legendary grave road, the description of which I have long since been able to quote by heart: »The route is rarely traveled, … good maps, compass or satellite navigation are essential, … always have enough fuel and drinking water with you …” every travel guide to read.

The best place for Christmas

Two days later. Christmas eve. My tent is at the foot of the Erg Tifernine. Sand mountains up to 350 meters high. The tallest in Algeria, rising steeply into the night sky and reflecting the light of the stars at this moment. The beauty of this landscape takes my breath away. Add to that this silence, which is almost eerie. I can’t think of a better place for Christmas. My companions, who drive a Land Rover that contains my drinking water and gasoline supplies, feel the same way.

On the way here we passed bizarre black mountains. Finally we discovered the first gold-colored dune belts, then lush green appeared again in the middle of the desert. Palm trees, acacias, tufts of camel grass. A symphony for the eyes. Sahara is addicting. We read from the Bible to ourselves. Then I climb a dune, feeling completely at the mercy of this landscape. The stress of the long journey is forgotten. The dangers also move into the distance. Our route will take us about 6,000 kilometers through this country. At the moment, the most difficult stage is the graves piste: 1,000 kilometers without a supply. Bordj Omar Driss, the last outpost of civilization, is already 250 kilometers of slopes behind us.

Early the next morning. A push of a button and the single cylinder thunders in idle. I hope everything will go well today too. The vibrations of the engine shake off all tension from me in one fell swoop. Click, first course. Clutch, gas. The rear tire threatens to dig in. Soft here. More gas. Sand and stones fly through the air. The machine is slowly starting to move. Click, second. Now she is floating on. Click, third. Speed! Right at this moment I break out, feel that it is good to be here. Desert in all shapes and colors flies past me. I drive like in a frenzy. Nevertheless, I treat this landscape with respect. Admire their beauty, do not underestimate their power and violence.

Engine fails in the middle of the dune field

Just a day’s journey further. Suddenly the engine no longer has any power. In the middle of a field of dunes and, moreover, on a rather steep passage. I just stop, the engine slowly dies completely. Like a dying animal. The wind comes up, increases in intensity at a rapid pace. Apparently everything is now against me. After only ten minutes, a full-blown sandstorm presses the grains painfully into the face, pinpricks the skin, rubs the eyes, trickles into the ears. The sun is setting, and since this morning I’ve only packed 40 kilometers. In the lee of a rock, armed with a flashlight, I dismantle the carburetor. And? Nothing. Strangely, the cart runs again after reassembly.

The next morning I start the machine with a queasy feeling. I show optimism towards my friends. And that’s right: the blessing barely lasts five kilometers. The motorcycle refuses to work again. But we can’t spend another day troubleshooting. Our drinking water supplies are already running out. Security now comes first. We have to leave the machine behind, hide it behind a rock and camouflage it well. Then I climb into the Land Rover, completely depressed.

After extensive map studies, Christoph, Greti and I decide to head for a military camp. 270 kilometers away from my machine. I don’t speak much on the way. My thoughts revolve around my MZ. I’m slowly starting to accept the situation, imagining that I would pay with my life for such a total failure in this godforsaken area without my friends’ Land Rover. What is a motorcycle against my life? Nothing at all. Replaceable. We drive into the darkness, until finally the outline of an old French fort can be seen in the high beam. Barbed wire everywhere. Armed uniformed men rudely stop us, check the papers and want to know what we are doing here. We explain our situation. The dark expressions of the strangers brighten up. They shake hands with us: “Mafisch muschgella” – no problem. We will recover the motorcycle. The military still want to know the GPS coordinates of my broken-down machine. Then they disappear into the darkness with a huge map.

Guns and ammunition would be enough to overthrow the government

I sleep restlessly tonight. The soldiers promised to pick me up at seven o’clock. But only at half past eight we leave the fort with two off-road vehicles, eight soldiers, fuel for 1,000 kilometers and enough weapons and ammunition to be able to bring about a small overthrow of the government. I feel like a guerrilla fighter. After five hours of hair-raising drive and a near flip, the hiding place is finally reached. The soldiers are impressed by the camouflage – they cannot see the motorcycle even at close range. The MZ is quickly stowed on the pick-up. But the sun is already low and we will never be able to reach the camp when it is bright. That gives me a headache. Navigating difficult terrain and at night. If that works out? But at least I have taken precautions: The difficult passages on the way there are completely saved as a GPS track in the navigation device. With the help of this virtual string you can find your way out of the largest landscape labyrinth. Theoretically.

In the dark, our convoy chases from navigation point to navigation point as a tiny black spot on the GPS display. Another 100 kilometers to camp. My military companions are nervous – until two cairns appear in the darkness on a prominent hill. We already saw them on the way there. Cheering, pat on the back, joy. Everyone is relieved. “Allah u akbar” – God is great. We are on the right track, we finally reach the camp. There is strength in peace. I dismantle the carburetor one more time. And find the mistake that led to the knockout. the machine was responsible. Contaminated gasoline has clogged a tiny filter in the carburetor. With the good fuel from the soldiers, my enduro runs perfectly again. “Al Handullilah.” Thank God.

The MZ is running again

Click, first gear …. The daily game starts all over again. We head west. Unfortunately, we have to forego a visit to the Djanet oasis. Time is running out. So head straight for Tamanrasset. The striking peaks of the Hoggar Mountains are finally emerging in the distance. Pinnacles up to 3,000 meters high that glow fiery red in the evening light. They are basalt plugs from former volcanoes, the cones of which were eroded by wind and weather – and which mark the southernmost point of our journey. The next day we bunker water and buy a few groceries in Tamanrasset, which is very lively at this time of the year. Enduros and off-road vehicles. Individual travelers and groups. Everyone who is on the move in southern Algeria will pass this place, which has long been accessible via a well-developed road.

Finally we disappear from this city again and aim for this wonderful mountain range. A slope winds uphill, I let the MZ run and reach the Assekrem saddle long before my friends. Finally we make ourselves comfortable in a mountain hut – as best we can. There is even firewood for the fireplace. Later we toast the New Year outside with a glass of red wine when the temperature is below zero. The long return journey begins the next morning. At five o’clock we’re back outside in the icy wind. To see a sunrise that can hardly be seen anywhere else. Finally we march to the little chapel of Father Foucault, receive God’s blessing for a safe journey home.

Extremely steep descent from the Tamanrasset pass

That can certainly do no harm: The notorious north descent from the 2,700 meter high pass to Tamanrasset is extremely steep and actually only a barely recognizable track in the rough scree. Only in the first two gears do I maneuver the MZ downhill. Sometimes trial-like passages. The chassis of my MZ cannot be disturbed here either. Then everything goes far too quickly, yes, compared to what lies behind us, far too easy. The towers of the Hoggar are getting smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirrors, finally we fly over the old Amguid runway towards the Algerian-Tunisian border, which we reach three days later. The traffic, the noise, the hectic hustle and bustle at the port in Tunis tear me out of my dream, which in the meantime was a short nightmare. But after ten years I was finally back in the garden of Allah. That’s the only thing that counts for me at this moment.


Travel to Algeria is currently possible without any problems. “Desert foxes”, who also travel with an escort vehicle, get their money’s worth in this country. Even beginners in the Sahara can practically drive up to the Hoggar Mountains on a developed road.

Arrival The journey to Algeria usually takes place via Tunisia. You can get there by ferry from Genoa or Marseille. From Genoa, the Corsica Marritima and SNCM lines go to Tunis. Information and booking at 06196 / 42911-13. There and back are to be paid per person and motorcycle in the cheapest category from around 350 euros. From Marseille you can also get to Tunis by SNCM ferries. Here and back per person and motorcycle from around 472 marks are due. From Tunis it is about 500 kilometers to the Algerian border between Tozeur and El Wad. Documents For Algeria you need a visa (30 euros), which can be obtained from the Embassy of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, Gorschstrabe 45-46, 13187 Berlin, Tel is got. You can download a visa application from the Africa specialist Darr ( There you will also find a lot of current information about safety, slope conditions and supply options. International driver’s license and vehicle license are recommended. In Algeria, a mandatory exchange of 2000 Algerian dinars (around 31 euros) is due. The bill of exchange must be kept until departure. All imported foreign exchange, travelers checks, video cameras and cameras must be entered on a foreign exchange declaration. The breakthrough remains with customs. Travel time Due to the extreme heat, a trip to the Sahara in the summer months is not recommended. The best time to travel is from the beginning of October to the end of May. In the winter months, you can even expect night frost. Equipment If you are traveling in Algeria without an escort vehicle, you can hardly avoid buying a larger tank and a corresponding luggage system. Touratech offers systems for almost all common enduros. Information under phone 07728/92790; In terms of tires, the combination of Michelin Desert (rear wheel) and Conti TKC 80 (front wheel) has proven itself very well. The robust elephant hoses offer additional protection against breakdowns. Since you are traveling in soft sand with reduced air pressure, you should fit appropriate tire holders to prevent the tire from spinning on the rim. If you want to drive off-piste – for example through the dunes of Erg Tifernine – you should definitely have a GPS. The MOTORRAD ACTION TEAM offers on the 8th and 9th June 2002 a satellite navigation course. Information under phone 0711 / 182-1977;, Literature »Durch Afrika« by Erika and Klaus Darr from the Verlag Reise Know How is almost a classic. On 1100 pages you can find an enormous amount of information as well as numerous route descriptions with GPS data. ISBN no. 3-89662-011-8, 29.04 euros Probably the best overview map is sheet 953 from Michelin with a scale of 1: 4,000,000. For trips off the main routes, we recommend Russian general staff maps on a scale of 1: 200,000 or IGN maps on a scale of 1: 500,000, which are available from expedition outfitters.

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